07:28, May 03 284 0 theguardian.com

2020-05-03 07:28:04
Hundreds of UK firms join forces to sue Hiscox over lockdown insurance

Two groups representing around 500 businesses which have insurance policies with Hiscox have joined forces to pursue legal action against the insurer in a row over coronavirus payouts.

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which acts for more than 100 pubs, bars and nightclubs, has teamed up with the Hiscox Action Group, representing a wide range of firms in different sectors, to share information and pool resources in their dispute with Hiscox. Together the groups speak for Hiscox policyholders with insurance cover of more than £50m.

Hiscox sold business interruption insurance policies to businesses before the pandemic, which stated that it would pay out when a business was forced to shut owing to a notifiable disease.

However, in recent weeks business owners have filed claims with Hiscox and other commercial insurers, only to be informed that their business interruption policies do not cover the pandemic.

Mark Killick, from the steering committee of the Hiscox Action Group, which represents more than 300 affected firms, said: “Hiscox’s behaviour has been disgraceful and is threatening thousands of UK businesses. By working together with the NTIA, we hope to force Hiscox to do the right thing before it is too late for many of our members.”

Business interruption policies typically pay up to £100,000 to cover the cost of keeping a company going if it is forced to close for reasons beyond its control. These include flood, fire, or even when a murder prevents the site from opening.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said their members’ policies have clearly been triggered by coronavirus, adding “we are determined to do everything we can to get Hiscox to pay out quickly and in full”.

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The Hiscox Action Group is being represented by City law firm Mishcon de Reya. Richard Leedham, the partner leading the action, said the firm was looking at the policyholders’ contracts. He said: “Hiscox has provided a very broad form of wording and its natural meaning would cover someone whose business was interrupted by the lockdown.”

The Bermuda-based insurer has said it expects to pay out between $150m (£120m) and $175m (£140m) to larger firms with specific event-cancellation cover, but states that small firms aren’t covered for pandemics.

Hiscox said in a statement: “We understand these are incredibly difficult times for businesses and we are paying claims that are covered by the policies we issue fairly and quickly. We review every case individually, and if any customer has concerns about the application of their policy, we encourage them to get in touch with us directly.”